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And no one sings me lullabyes
And no one makes me close my eyes
So I throw the windows wide
And call to you across the sky.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Ghost of a Chance

Open antho alert! Via Jeff VanderMeer, Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas are editing a new antho Haunted Legends. The Call for Submissions is very specific, and only a few slots are open, but still.

Duck Season!

Joshua Palmatier is spilling the beans about his agent hunt. It's an excellent story with excellent tips (especially on ordering one's agent list). I know a few of you are in the hunt already. I'm not anywhere ready to start, but I certainly will use his tips when I do.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Boring, What I Did for My B-Day Post

Slept late, natch. Not late enough, but still later than when it's social acceptable to make lots of noise outside. Have I mentioned that my neighbors are somewhat insane when it comes to lawn care?

From there, we went to the Butler Institute of American Art to see the The Art of Warner Bros. Animation exhibit. The Butler is a great little museum, if you're one of those that look at museums as speed trial events, you could probably do the whole place in about 2 hours. We didn't see everything they had on display but we spent about three hours there. The Warner Bros exhibit was contained in one room, a small collection, but was really fantastic.

They had cell illustrations, background illustrations (those were really fabulous), character model sheets, animation sketches, storyboard sketches, promotional art sketches, and most interesting of all, a shot schedule. That was an amazing document to see. It wasn't the prettiest thing. Basically the shot list listed the background illustration, cell number, effect or camera motion for every single frame to be shot. This is the directors instructions to both the camera operators and the illustrators, because this list is developed after the story board, but before any animation sketches are completed. It shows how long each scene should take, how to synch up to voices (already recorded), and the timing and pacing of the jokes, which were highly controlled. Just really excellent to look at, more than the model pages (which outlined exactly how the characters were to be drawn, and what parts to emphasize (such as how Tweety went from having the longest of his 3 hairs being in back to being in front, how Porky's head should be the same volume as the rest of his body and feet).

The exhibits were also a lot of fun. The Lloyd paintings (oil and water colors) were very interesting. Lloyd was a local artist, but his style varied greatly over his career and it was interesting to see paintings he executed in the same year showing impressionism, folkism, and a very highly polished academy style. Then to compare them to the Stengels they had as well, that was just excellent. While the Wythe exhibit was long ago they still were displaying eight paintings and water colors by Andrew, NC, and Jamie (father, grandfather and son). They also had their newest acquisition on display, Rockwell's "Lincoln, Rail-splitter." We didn't go through their permanent collection display this time, but they do have a lot of great work there (a few by Edward Hopper, some John Singer Sargent and Mary Cassatt, and their gem, Winslow Homer's "Snap the Whip."

On the way back home we drove through Mosquito Creek State Park which mostly consisted of the lake, boat launches, and fishing areas. We did see one trail head, but considering how close it was to the road, we didn't bother to walk it.

Back home I spent my birthday cleaning out the garage and getting the yard ready for summer. We put out the rain barrel and the garden hose. I then picked up some of the large branches in the yard that came down during the last ice storm.

Finally, we grilled out for the first time. Most of you don't know this, but grilling is a competitive sport in my family. In my own opinion, I'm still the best. I use charcoal, not gas, and have a portable Weber Smokie (19"). It doesn't have the deep well for the charcoal that my Mom's grill has, which took a little getting used to (the fire tends towards the hotter and faster with my grill). We grilled some hotdogs (hey, they were available and thawed) and some steaks. The steaks were dry grilled (no marinating or sauce) which isn't my favorite way, but we forgot to start soaking them the night before and I just wasn't in the mood to rub the steaks or use up sauce that mostly burns away. They came out pretty well anyway. Using the hotdogs I was able to map out the fire and then knocked back the oxygen to keep the stakes from drying out. At the end I did open the grill top to caramelize the fat by placing the steaks on the hotest part of the fire and pouring in the oxygen (I'm not a big eater of fat, usually I trim it off). This is the exact opposite of how I do chicken halves, BTW (sear top first, cook a little way in, turn on to bone side and finish grilling through with a slow cook).

Then we saw a new (to us) movie, Charlie Wilson's War. I wasn't very keen on seeing this when it was out, but Bette bought it on sale. It actually wasn't bad. They took some liberties with the story, but didn't flinch too much when showing just how things were back in the early 80s (want to know just how different business culture is today as compared to when I started working, Charlie's office isn't all that much different than many offices at the time). They also handled the end of movie pretty well. There were only two moments that threw me out of the movie, both involved the combat footage (well, three now that I think of it). First off, when the HIND helicopters circle in for their first attack shown, the rocket tubes are empty (it's real quick, but you can see daylight and open tubes). So the rocket fire is CGI (and I'm assuming the minigun as well), also the people running when shown from the cockpit was just a little off (uncanny valley moment). The second time was when they showed the first shootdown scene, and the two other guys run out from behind the bushes and fire their Stingers after the first HIND is destroyed, too Hollywood (we want to show a BIG change). Then there was the one helicopter blowing up as they did the over all scene showing the shoot down successes over time, it was a Huey. Difficult to tell as the whole shot was the helicopter in a ball of flame, but that crew compartment is very distinct, and very different from the HIND and most Soviet airframes. It was one of those, WTF? moments. Overall, though, I recommend the movie, if just to revel in the character of Gust Avrakotos.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

42!

Saturday is the day I turn the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. So to celebrate, I've finished with my facial hair trimming.

This is, as my wife calls it, my Baby-Faced Steve look.


As you can see, I have my friends with me. My counsellors fantastique. On one side is the angel of cute snuggly civic pride beaniness. On the other is the High Lord of Snarkitude. You can see which one I listen to.

This is the year. I think my past block was a by product of several issues, but now that it's no longer winter, the trickster is waning, and I feel more at ease, the ice has gone out. Work is backed up, but I feel I can handle it.

These past few months I've been re-evaluating many parts of my life. I knew a change needed to be made, I'm hoping that having shorn the facial whiskers, that is enough of a symbolic gesture to break on through to the other side. I have thought about giving up on writing (not going to happen), quitting council (still an option), continuing to rid myself of bad habits (no, I'm still not telling, but I have had successes in knocking them back), focusing more on myself than others (although, I can be a selfish prick about that, which I need to watch out for), once some of these projects are done I'm really going to cut back the freelance design job (although, I now have a few more clients I like, sigh), and rededicate myself to a promise I made when I broke my leg. That promise was to do new things and not be such a tight-ass stick in the mud.

So, the difference between beard and no beard, 1) you can see I have a double chin (I'm working on it), and 2) my face gets really hot. Oh, I still look really cheesy in just a mustache. Yes, I showed Bette, she agreed I shouldn't take a picture. Real cheese, like what they have in Wisconsin. Cheese with porn jazz kind of cheesy. Some guys can pull the look off and make it work for them. I'm not one of them.

This is the year I get published, this is the year I finish the first draft of the book (and more), this is the year I go farther, relax more, and have fun. The old plan of waiting to have fun until later isn't working.

I probably won't be online tomorrow as I will be enjoying being me. Go enjoy being you. Here's to a good 42.

I'm going to be hopeful, optimistic, full of piss and vinegar, because the alternative is to face 42 like this:

Friday, April 25, 2008

The World Is a Hungry Place

There is a world hunger crisis. The price of basic food stuffs have escalated in the past two years to where there have been food riots, shortages, and has lead to more people going hungry (and then starving) every night. Now, there is enough food in the world and the earth's capability to produce food that this is mostly an economic crisis.

Countries are now limiting exports of their own foodstuffs and have special police teams to crack down on hording. World Food Programs are having difficulty meeting demand and are seeing their reserves drained. Countries that distribute food (mostly authoritarian nations, but Egypt, nominally democratic, also does this, Iraq also does this) have lessened the caloric intake of their subjects (ie. reduced rations).

Most people in the world don't eat like we in the US do. Here in the US our food purchases are mostly of processed and "enriched" foods, and there is a sizable percentage of people who buy mostly finished foods (eat out or take-home). Because of that, even though what we are paying for our food here is only a fraction of the increase that other people are seeing (most of the cost here is middle men, processors, value-added, which has been absorbing some of the cost increases). When wheat prices have tripled in the past two years, we here in the US don't see our bread prices triple, it's more like a 30-40% increase. However, in other parts of the world, people buy the raw foodstuffs. For them, this is a major crisis.

That doesn't mean this problem is only relegated to second and third world countries. Here in the US our government regularly provides our foodbanks and charity pantries with surplus food (you may remember the "cheese blocks" that were the focus of the news years ago). Those products, while still distributed, are now running at less than 50% of previous years. Donations from food whole-sellers have also dropped. Private money donations are up, but those provided less than 50% of the food donated in the past, and mostly went to administrative and distribution costs. Because of the increase in diesel, those costs have increased to match the increase in donations. All this at a time where more and more people are in need of the services these charities provide.

Biofuels is taking most of the blame, even though that at the top end, only 20-30% of the price increase can be tied directly to biofuels. This is intentional misdirection and subsection to keep up from paying attention to the man behind the curtain, which is fossil fuels. The price increase of fossil fuels, which is also driving the biofuels revolution, accounts for the majority of the increase (including the cost increase from biofuels) becomes the far and away leader of the price increases.

This isn't all bad. Farmers, who normally don't see any increases from the normal rate of inflation we pay at the grocery store, are now seeing record prices for their products. Many are paying off debt (if you've never seen debt papers for a farm operation, count yourself lucky) and are now incurring new debt by buying new equipment.

Things are going to be bad this summer, as winter supplies run thin before the summer crops come in.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

International Pixel-stained Technopeasant and Juvenalia Shake Hands

In honor of the Second Annual Pixel-stained Technopeasant Day, and the immense fun I had hearing others' Juvenalia readings, I offer my own entry. Storming Heaven was the first short story I wrote that I felt was ready for publication. It's been sitting in the trunk for years now. I still like it, although I don't write like this anymore. Well, I hope I don't write like this anymore.

As an explanation, this story is a direct result of working in West (by God) Virginia for almost six months. My work there was for a family owned business, and our money maker clients were all Gospel/Christian Rock. I have plenty of excellent stories from that time. One of the things that sticks with me was this was my first major contact with people who really are waiting for the world to end and Judgement to come.

BTW, Merrie Haskell has not only posted her IPSTP Day story, she's also made a recent sale that you should go an congratulate her on. You rock, Mer.

Same as It Ever Was

So, yawn. Clinton won at pretty close to the expected margin (right now it's around 9%, expect it to change, expect to have news conferences to explain that change). Pennsylvania had their moment in the Sun, and just like Ohio, many people crossed over from the Republican Party to vote in the Democratic primary.

Since I listen to a lot of talk radio (NPR), there's this running thread about how many Republicans have crossed over to vote for Hillary, and this is why she's winning (seriously, many comments on the shows about). Well, I hate to bust some people's bubbles, but from the PD Report (many weeks ago) and exit polling from Pennsylvania, most are crossing over to vote for Obama. This is in spite of Limbaugh's call to action. Sorry, Rush just isn't all that motivating anymore.

Unless someone wins some state really big, this will be settled at the convention by just how many people jump ship and for whom. Super-delegates and regular delegates alike. Keep in mind, just like the Electorate, delegates may be pledged, but they're not shackled.

Another point I'd like to make to the Clinton Campaign, no matter who starts the mudslinging, Hillary will always be perceived as the bad one. Seriously. Yes, I'm paying more attention to the speeches on both sides this time, both sides are slinging the same amount. The difference is Obama is more subtle in the attacks, Hillary is more direct. So, embrace that perception. You're going to be painted that way no matter what you do. Relax about it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

It'll All Be Over Tomorrow... Not

Yes, tomorrow is another speed bump on the way to the convention. Unless Hillary wins by 25% or Obama wins by 10%, nothing is going to be settled. Because it won't be settled until the actual convention. Because despite all the rhetorical flap, as long as it keeps going the way it is (48-52% spreads), nobody's got the math. Not even with the super-delegates (because they are also splitting down the middle). Edwards is going to be the most courted white man in America in the next few months (he hasn't released his pledged delegates yet - not that it really means anything, but it's a nice formality). Yes, everybody get ready for a brokered convention. It'll be whomever can sway enough delegates to switch that will win. The only way to avoid it? Somebody can get a grip and redo Florida and Michigan (no, just banking the delegates isn't an acceptable solution to anybody).

And you know what. Stop spittling, this is exactly why the super-delegate system was imposed. No, really, this is why they are there. Two good candidates that people can choose between. The SDs are there to make the decision on which (in their professional opinion) has the best chance to win in November.

And, despite what Fox News wants us to believe, it's damn great to have people who normally don't get to have campaigning in their states are now getting to see it (and some are very tired of it, other are quite excited about it). And that we don't have a font runner selected is going very well, thank you. Sure, "If X wins, would you vote for them since your candidate Y lost" questions get the answer that question is designed to produce. Ask the question in a different way and that "schism" all but disappears.

And I agree with the consensus that both the candidates have very close policies and want to address the same issues. I'm also tired of the harping on "manufactured issues" (on both sides, and don't get me started on wearing a lapel flag pin unless you want your ear burned off) and wish they would get to discuss the differences in their plans and views (because, even through the agree on things, they have different approaches and priorities). But that's not what sells advertising, or is the easiest to encapsulate on the evening news. It's not MTVish enough for our attention deficit disorder nation.

So, are we all prepared for a long spring and summer?

Speed of the Universal Hum

Science and numbers have always been fun things for me. This is why I get all happy when I hear Robert Krulwich's voice on NPR. You can just tell he enjoys this stuff too. It's kind of like seeing Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson on TV, you know it's going to be both entertaining and enlightening.

So, today's Krulwich on science piece was exceptionally interesting because I have several stories that revolve around this very premise. The first is a story I've taken notes for, and written out parts of, but is looking to be about 11-15000 words, so I haven't pursued it very much (sale of that length form an unknown is highly unlikely). Think Rendezvous With Rama only with attitude, a submarine in space story, a psychological experiment, and "just how would an alien species attack Earth" all wrapped up together, with significant twists. But I forgot the radius squared rule. I'll need to rethink the story because of that.

And then there's the other story, the Cthulhu in Space/Maritime rescue story. While I was listening to the Krulwich report the scientist he interviews talks about light speed distances, and commented that it's about 5 light hours to the edge of the solar system. My story starts off with it being about 8 hours to the Kuiper Belt objects. So, quick math time (this time I needed a calculator that handles big numbers).

Speed of light = 299,792.458 km/s
AU = 150,000,000 km (mean distance of the Earth to the Sun)
Speed of light in AU = 500 light seconds per AU (roughly 8 minutes)
Kuiper Belt Objects = roughly 40 AU, 20,000 light seconds, 5.55 light hours

So, I'll need to adjust times in the story, but only by a little. Darn reality, messing with my mojo.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mirror Mirror

Many moons ago when I posted my picture I made a remark that in a goatee I look positively evil. For your edification and entertainment, I present Evil Steve.

It being spring, and being blocked, I decided a change was needed. This isn't permanent. By the end of the week I'll most likely be clean shaven. I'll keep that for a month or two and then grow the beard back. If you all are good and eat all your peas, when I shave this off, I may go to a mustache and take a photo. I won't keep it longer than that. I look real cheesy in just a mustache.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up With Photos

Got up early to make sure the manuscripts were in the mail. Drove over to our little post office and sent them out.

It's certainly spring. Neighbors are mowing (I don't think the grass has started to grow all that much yet. My back yard is filled with trout lilly, which is just starting to flower.


When I say my back yard is filled, this is what I mean.

Here is another of my back yard.

You can see the bench that was in my background photo I posted a little bit back. The tree on the ground is an old apple tree that was standing dead when we moved in. I started to lop off branches, and when I got to this point, the weather abruptly changed and my chain-saw break engaged, even through my hand wasn't near it. Fortunately I took the hint and left the rest standing. It made a nice little platform for the birds to use out feeders, and I decorated it with wind-chimes and other outdoor baubles. I called it my fairy tree. When ever I was outside I would run my hand over all the wind-chimes. If I didn't, it seemed that bad luck would follow me until I did. It didn't last the winter, the stump has rotted out. Now my wind-chimes and baubles are looking for a home. As a side note, the one wind-chime which I felt a particular fondness for broke a week before the tree dropped. I also repaired that today (had to find all the chimes), so I think I need to find the next "fairy tree" to put it on.

All the windows are open and right now our fire department is off to something, running hot.

We have half our new shelves installed downstairs. Yep, we had another wall that just needed to have full size shelving units installed. We were hoping they would be in on Friday, but I guess their other install was going slow. Now they'll be back on Monday to finish. It shouldn't take them long.

We're making soap. It's one of those self sufficiency things. We use the SunFeather Soap Company's cold process (lye) soap kits. This one if lavender, so our whole house is now infused with that smell. Fortunately, I happen to like the smell of lavender. The soap itself it taking a damn long time to set up. If you've never mixed lye, consider yourself lucky. Not only will the fumes take you down, the damn thing gets really hot. I mean, really, really hot. As in the instructions say, "to avoid possibility of boiling over, use cold water to mix lye."

As you all know, I can't play much during the workweek. As I've told my friends, I don't have much privacy at my work station. Here are some photos to show what I mean.

That's my desk.

That's my desk from my boss's office door.

And since I'm talking about work. As I was uploading the photos I found this one. You may remember when I talked about gouging my hand. Here it is after the foam/glue dropped off.

It looks much better than this now, but it did leave a scar. A "V" shaped scar. That makes 5 scars on my hands.

Anyway. Just wanted to share. I'm somewhat productive today, so I'm feeling much better.

Last weekend's big "D" episode lead me to evaluate where I was at. I had regressed farther than I thought, so I'm back to being more active about breaking it. My friend Sheila (who is one of my lurkers ::waves at Sheila::) reminded me of The Artists Way which, among other bits of advice, talks about "artist dates" and gifts. That is to nourish oneself you should go and do things for you, but things for you. Depravity is not the way to feed an artist (yeah, yeah, starving artists, blah blah, know why those artists are starving, because most put their money back into their art instead of themselves). Well, I need to do more for myself. I'm not helping anybody this way.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Dead Tree Submissions

Wait a sec, I think I hear our owl...

I'll have to check later. Just as I started this I thought I heard the call. Yes, spring is here, the daffodillies are sprung, the windows are open after dark.

What I started to say was that I've got the stories in envelopes, all inside postage (reply card and SASE) stamped and ready to go (SASE has new postage on it) for both stories rejected on Monday. So, not a quick as I usually am, but I'll try and get to the Post Office tomorrow and get them in the system. Just for the record I'm sending Daddy's Little Girl off to Cemetery Dance and Running of the Deer to Realms of Fantasy Magazine. This time I'm trying two markets than don't take e-subs. So we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Ghost Hunters and Gatherers

As you all know, I like the show Ghost Hunters (that link is very media heavy, note to SciFi, not everybody has broadband). It's fun, when it's about the group and the investigation, when it's about the struggle between them it's less fun. I like how they (used) to not just accept that there was activity and attempted to explain the stories and their own experiences with normal, everyday, happenings. Yes, I'm very glad they stopped looking for orbs.

While they're applying scientific equipment (notice, I just say the equipment, see later for reason), they aren't really applying scientific methodology (except Occam's Razor when debunking). Some of the things they accept as proof I think there are other explanations. Such as it was very interesting that as they moved to digital voice recorders, many of their EVPs disappeared until they started using white noise generation. Note to guys, just like the brain will make attempt to do pattern recognition visually, it'll also do that for the other senses. So it could be for the old tape recorders, there was what's called tape bleed through, even with so called "blanks" (for professional tape recording there are ways to prep tape before making recordings).

"Science" does involve investigation of events and phenomenon, so that part is good (although, one partial night of investigation, without doing some base line testing, isn't all that good, but hey, it's volunteers). The guys do, however, make hypotheses but then they never develop experiments to test them (such as spirits will drain energy from batteries or even the air - cold spots - to manifest, I guess the spirit world doesn't believe in AC wall current). Some, I can design experiments (such as, if you think there's activity, place car batteries or deep-cycle batteries in the room, more energy to manifest). Do intensive study of those places that you get good evidence (evp, emp, more cameras, etc) and repeat the experiments. Show actual correlation between what you're measuring and actual activity.

Anyway, if the show is what they say it is, there have been some very cool moments over the years. I still enjoy watching it (although the GH International not so much). It's about the only show I really make room for (and even now I'm blogging, doing council stuff, and some writing things - reading and critiquing other people's stuff). Laptops are great. But I also look at it as good entertainment.

So, do they use "scientific tools," well, they've got cool stuff. "Scientific methods," well partially (but not consistently or fully). "Scientific method," not so much. It is much better than other "ghost hunting" shows, which are basic stories about people freaking themselves out.

Ode to Greeny

If I saw you on the street
I wouldn't recognize your face
But I certainly did
Like hanging around your place
Talking about medicine
Jobs, kids, life and gardening
Joking about the bad times
Woohoo-ing the good
Greeny is making some changes
Things I wanted to know and see
But she needs some time in her life
A vacation to just be.

We love you right back, Greeny. Enjoy your time off, or at least we hope it's fruitful. We understand that need, although for different reasons I'm guessing. Hope to see you back soon. Wishing you all the best.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fearlessly the idiot faced the crowd, smiling

Since I mentioned I was listening to early Floyd in the last post, and then blow it by quoting The Vogues, I needs make amends and restore my classic rock creds.

You say that hill is to steep to climb.
Yes, it's about the big "D" again.

You say you'd like to see me try.
Well, that's what talking about it on this blog is all about, now, 'taint it.

You pick the place and I'll choose the time, and I'll climb the hill in my own way.
Because, I gotta do it my way. I gotta write my own way.

And everyday is the right day... you look down, hear the sound of the faces in the crowd.
Ah, the smell of the crowd, the roar of the grease paint. Everyday should be the right day.

Sooner than wait for a break in the weather
It's getting close to Spring. People are riding bikes, and if you thinking I'm talking about the pedal kind, you don't know me at all. I need to make writing sales to afford a new motorcycle.

I'll gather my far flung thoughts together, speeding away on a wind to a new day.
Yeah, I was talking about writing. Hey, today I wrote a t-shirt slogan. I really need to get on Cafe Press and get my own shop going. A project for a weekend.

One of these days I'm gonna dance with the little piggies.
Politics have also been on my mind, but I don't want to think about them. Not at the moment. Major politics and local politics, and neither one is a good place for me.

If I had a good plan, I'd talk to you more often than I do.
Need to shake this last part of big "D" off.

Please don't put your wires in my brain.
So is that good enough to get my cred back.

You know I care what happens to you... And any fool knows a dog needs a home, a shelter from pigs on the wing.

Not Drinking Enough Water - Five O'clock World

This weekend was a little setback. On Sunday afternoon I was sure it was a relapse into big "D." However, after a little reflection, I think it was a stall on the progression coupled with a large dollop of little "d."

On the way home from work I was listening to early Pink Floyd and enjoying it, damnit.

However, today I kept up the pissedness from mid morning to mid-afternoon, so I know it's not the big "D." One of the symptoms of big "D" is that flattening of emotion. Sure I ran out of piss and vinegar in the late afternoon heading into early evening, hey, when you're an old guy that kind of thing is tiring.

Then I got the rest of the piss taken out of me with the dual rejections. The night thing funnerie is getting extended into next week. I've already got work scheduled into Thursday (which is typically my bad day anyway).

But, hey, my wife says she really liked the concept of my story. Ha! Vinegar stores being replenished. Time to start drinking water.

"In the shelter of the huns, every thing's okay..."

Good Cop, Bad Cop Kind of Day

Today sucked. I don't know what star went in retrograde, which God I forgot to appease, or that I didn't dance naked in my woods at the last New Moon, but something when sprong in the universe. Did my mass-market voodoo dolls go on sale today?

The day thing went wild. I like to work at a measured pace, not slow by any means, and I don't milk projects for time. And today the boss man made comments about me "letting things get backed up." Um, no, this is just the pace of work I had most of last year. It's been a nice lull since December.

The night gig also decided to reach out and swallow what little joy I had left in a morass of bureaucratic funnerie. I had about a week and a half of not having to fret about it, that's all gone now.

And then I come home to rejection-o-rama. Two rejections in one afternoon. O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

Still the bad news, Ann VanderMeer passed on Running of the Deer. She said it wasn't quite what she was looking for, fair cop (and what she said about the other stories I've sent).

And a rejection letter from Fantasy & Science Fiction about Daddy's Little Girl. Didn't quite grab him, alas. Okay, also fair cop. Didn't quite grab Gordon Van Gelder.

Which brings us to the Good Cop side. If you remember a few weeks back I was joyous about some news I got. Well, now I can spill. See, with paper submissions I send out a reply postcard that I designed myself. On it are a few checkboxes, my attempts at humor and maybe to get a little giggle out of the slush readers (check boxes that say things like, "We find this manuscript holds up well under the other 256 we received today, all manuscripts read in order received" or "perfectly fits the crack in the window sill, there was a breeze"). But this one came back with a personalized note that said, basically, I had made it out of the slush. I made it out of the slush at F&SF. Goal!

So I'm going to grab on to the fact that both my rejection letters were from the fiction editors at both markets (Ann VanderMeer and Gordon Van Gelder). Yeah, that's a good thing.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Story Bones

I'm listening to a podcast where the interviewer talks to writers all the time. And this interviewer (who is a popular name, at least if you listened to NPR for the past ten years) asks the question. That question. You know, the one about ideas.

And I'm thinking, heck, this interviewer is even an author himself. Then there's the people who go up to authors saying, "Hey, I've got this idea. You write it and we'll split the profits." What is this with not having ideas? I can't go to the bathroom without getting ideas. Are all of them story worthy? No. But still.

Here's three story bones just from off the top of my head (because I've also not thrown out some bones in a long while and it's the name of the damned blog). Plus, it's close to International Pixel-stained Technopeasant Day. So think of this as the Hanukkah version.

1) Guy walks into a bar, and it's a zombie bar. What would zombies drink? How would they pay? Is the bartender a zombie? What snacks would they serve? Is it a hip place because all these goths are into zombies and an honest zombie can't get a drink around here anymore.

2) Beowulf didn't defeat Grendel, but entered into a non-compete agreement with him. Beowulf would share his treasure with Grendel only if Grendel stopped eating
Hrothgar's men. So far, so good. Beowulf the Hero returns to England and defeats the dragon, which nets Grendel a huge sum of money. But now it's all run out. Grendel's hungry again. Would he have been civilized by now? How would he interact with the modern world that doesn't have Hero Halls to prey upon. Would Grendel do the Frankenstein (literary, not movie version) thing? Would he now be a thinking and reasoning monster in search of grace that would forever elude his grasp? And what if he just went back to old habits (hey, monster has got to eat, ya know), is there a way to have a modern hero quest? I mean, Grendel would make these wimpy vampires squeal for help. (Can you tell I really like this idea, especially the deal with Beowulf?)

3) Leprechauns are running Fort Knox (or, actually, the gold reserves 40 stories below New York City). Come on, that's cool. While they handle the world's gold reserves in good trust, they get a little possessive from time to time, which requires meetings with management. Hey, a leprechaun annual performance review. Oh, that's hilarious. "Well, McCready, your curly shoes just haven't been up to snuff these days. You jig dancing is a wee bit slow. Ya just aren't on the top of yer game now, are ya laddie." Good comic potential. "Da gold!"

And there you have it, three ideas in fifteen minutes. They may not all pan out, but I think they should. They all have the potential. Heck, #2 could be a novella or novelette length.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

You Spin Me Right Around, Baby

Gen. David Petraeus and that wacky Ambassador Crocker did their dog and pony show. Both sides of the aisle showed their lack of understand and focus (really, stop grand standing already, do your frickin' jobs). But most especially, stop the flaming Sen. Graham, that kind of love for another man just makes us all question your hetrosexuality. And while your growing something stiff, try adding a spine to it.

And did we all learn the new phrases? Ethno-centric competition? WTF? Gen. Petraeus, please stop the madness and speak straight forward, every day Engrish, huh, can ya? Don't get me wrong, I actually like Petraeus, at least I did. His past two performances have been nothing but extended interviews for the Joint Command positions.

So, if the "Surge" is a success, can we disengage now? Well, no, I guess not. We've won Iraq at least three times now, how many more do we need? Is the President going for the full 6 place setting commemorative plate set? When can we get back to, I don't know, actually winning in Afghanistan?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

How to Write a Novel

Tobias Buckell is giving his updated "How I Write a Novel" post over at his site. Tobias keeps on about this Scrivener software. I should try and give that software a run, although for the current novel I already have a lot in other pieces of software. Anyway, Tobias also have photos and screen shots. It's definitely worth checking out.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Shakespeare Code

Watching the Met's presentation of "Romeo et Juliette" on PBS and it comes to me, yeah verily, that crafty olde bard of Avon hath left us lessons in codes a plenty.

First lesson that one should learn from "Romeo and Juliet," as well as from "Much Ado About Nothing" and even from "Twelfth Night" is when one puts one's trust in monks, friars, or priests, one ends up dead, pretending to be dead, or wanting to be dead. No good can come from consorting with the religious caste in Shakespeare's plays.

Let this be a lesson to us all.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Words, it's what's up

One of the things you'll hear writers blathering on and on about ad nauseum, is cutting out and removing redundancy. Other than that they talk about getting the words down.

In On Writing the inestimable Stephen King relates a story of James Joyce. Here a friend finds Joyce sprawled across his desk in utter despair about "the work." When the friend asks how many words Joyce got that day, James replies, "Seven."

"Seven?" says the friend. "But James . . . that's good, at least for you!"

"Yes," Joyce said, finally looking up. "I suppose it is . . . but I don't know what order they go in!"

Well, I usually get more than seven at a time, but the other day I just got three. And that's when the fun began. The words were, "donuts," "no," and "more." Also, with the words, I didn't get any punctuation. So I'm at even more at a loss. Let's say we put them in one order, but then try and insert punctuation and see what we get.
  • "No more donuts."

  • "No more... donuts?"

  • "No, more donuts!"

Now, that's just adding punctuation, and we get three distinctly different sentences which go with completely different stories (or parts of stories).

Next we can adjust the order.
  • "Donuts no more."

  • "More donuts, no?"

  • "More, 'No donuts.'"

I can see I'm going to need a bigger eraser.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Here, There, and Somewhere Else

Sorry for the absence. It wasn't intended. Life sort of reached out and throttled everything else. The bad part is that it was busy without much satisfaction or at least completion. In fact I'm farther in the hole than I was last week at this time.

The signs of spring are here. Ants have shown up in the house, which means it's time to spray (one of the few times my wife lets me use harsh chemicals). Ants are the downside to having so many trees so close to the house. If we have the money this summer, we may remove some of those trees. The ones that I can do are as good as gone, but there are a few that are too close for my comfort. Also, the daffodillies have sprouted up. I know some others of you have seen them come and go, ours aren't open yet. There's plenty of pick'em up sticks in the back forty. There's also a few trees that will need the chainsaw taken to them.

This summer things need to be done. Chores I've successfully procrastinated on the past few ears will no longer be denied.

It's also been awhile since I've talked about the big "D." I'm still not out of the woods, but it's much better now. I haven't talked about it because it's now ignorable. Yes, that's a male trait. I'm trying to be better. It's also a male symptom of depression (we ignore it). So when I say it's now ignorable, I'm not really ignoring it, but breaking the cycle no longer requires constant attention or vigilance. Sure, the gremlin voices are still there telling me that I'm just plain stupid, but the reflexive response of telling them where they can go is back. They'll soon learn they can't get a rise (or actually a dip in energy and mental ability) out of me so easily. This is the area that gets most men in trouble, I think. At this point, even though I know I'm still in the big "D" it doesn't feel like I am. So it's easy to dismiss as "I'm a little blue" or even ignore it completely. The difference, though, is the time you spend here. By my calculations I've been in big "D" now for about three months, give or take. On the way down, this area is one that most guys just "put it out of their minds" (the mental equivalent of "walking it off"), so most of us don't notice it when it's still hanging around after a few weeks.

So as I'm doing stuff and thinking about what to write I've come up with this. Here's a rough comparison of what a difference big "D" can make.

Last year at this time I was working 16 hours of overtime on a regular basis, the Village stuff was a little busy with a new employee and changing to spring, and I had gone to another new conference and did pretty good there. This year I'm finally back up to 8 hours of overtime, the village stuff is about twice of last year, I went to the same conference and was in my own opinion, "just there."

Here's the big difference between the two and shows the effects of big "D" (and because this is a writers blog, damnit, it's about the writing), last year by this time I had finished two short stories and was working on my third, and was having the vague notions of what the novel needed to be about and writing some scenes out. This year, I have no new short stories completed, two are in the works (one from November, the other just recent), and the novel progresses at a rate that would make a glacial pace seem a bit hasty.

Sure, the pressure from the Village job is exponentially higher than last year, and I'm doing more freelance stuff (part of what I need to get off my duff for), but still. That's a big change. And winter is my normally productive writer period. I'm hoping that with this new story coming, and other writing things happening, that this is the sign that the damn is cracking and we're about to see little Dutch boys running for their lives soon.